Thursday, 3 July 2008

The Thing About Men, July 3, 2008 ***

The Thing About Men
By Jimmy Roberts & Joe DiPietro
Produced by Magnormos
Theatreworks, July 3 to 12, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: 3

Remember the madly popular American musical, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change? The writers, Joe DiPietro (libretto) Jimmy Roberts (music), also wrote The Thing About Men, another successful Off-Broadway musical about screwed up, modern romance.

The show, directed by Aaron Joyner for Magnormos, shares much with the duo’s previous show. The songs are typical of the contemporary American musical style, including ballads and upbeat tunes with witty lyrics and complex rhymes. The story is like a French farce set in New York, with broken hearts, disguised lovers, secret trysts, romantic deceptions and plenty of laughs. Strangely, it is based on a 1986 movie called Men made by East Germans – not known for their jokes.

Chris Parker has a compelling voice and plays Tom the advertising executive with a brittle charm. Tom is “a bread-winning, ass-kicking, Porsche-driving, home-owning, lawn-mowing man” (Oh, What a Man) who leaves his wife, Lucy (Laura Fitzpatrick) when he discovers she is having an affair with bohemian artist, Sebastian (Liam Pedersen). Tom’s moral outrage is ironic because he is also having an affair.

Tom embarks on a bizarre form of retribution by changing his name and moving into his rival’s grungy New York loft to spy on his wife’s affair. But his plans go awry when he and Sebastian become best buddies. (The Greatest Friend).

Joyner maintains a cracking pace throughout, keeping the focus on the lunacy of the story and its messy relationships. Much of the comedy around Tom is built on the collision of his rigid corporate style with his undignified deceptions. He disguises himself as a gorilla in one scene to avoid being caught.

Fitzpatrick plays Lucy fairly straight and her voice is bright and engaging. As Sebastian, her lover, Pedersen
is playful as a puppy. The three voices blend extremely well and the ensemble singing Downtown Bohemian Slum is a treat. Lyall Brooks and Nicolette Minster make a versatile support pair, providing innumerable comic cameos including the palm reading hippy and a smug French waiter.

The songs are a little predictable and not all memorable and the set design is unimaginative, but The Thing About Men is a cheerful, funny and contemporary musical.

By Kate Herbert

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